“And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes,” Job 2:7-8. The portrait of a human man has drastically changed. The olive flesh is now muddied with dirty greys. The garments are torn and wearied with sorrow. The picture is messy and distinctions cannot be made. My ashes are grey. “And when they saw him from a distance, they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great,” Job 2:12-13.
With one swoop of an obliging Adversary, God and man are separated by a chasm of accusation. Everything is murky and questionable. Who will come out of the contest clean and recognizable?
God, in His divinity, does not bow to the accusation. He remains constant and pure in His perspective. He watches Job and is satisfied. Job is a friend. By the end of the drama, after observing the behaviors of both Satan and Job’s circle of friends, God steps into the realm of human mutterings to defend His own heart as well as Job’s heart. “The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has,’” Job 42:7. Job, on the other hand was not so constant. After all, he is human and has so many questions needing an answer. His heart and words wavered with doubt as he continually struggled to muster a hope that God was a just God and would not do evil against Job.
The pressure was from the outside pursuing and forcing a conformation. But Job’s transformation came from the inside. A candle burned in the heart of Job for the Divine God he believed to be just, true and faithful. Job steadied himself upon his belief. He teetered and tottered but refused to move his feet. It is where we humans chose to or chose not to stand when tested. To King Belshazzar of Babylon, God said, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting,” Daniel 5:27. Though shaky, the tested Job was still standing with integrity, with equity.
At the end of the Job drama, an Adversary is nowhere to be found. He has fled the territory and left man to face God. The games were merely a temptation to bring controversy between Divinity and Dust. They worked a temporary magic. But, I say, because of faith, they produced a backdrop for eternal romance.
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you,” Job 40:7-14. The whole story was a big enough deal for God to show up in person. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” Job 42:5-6. Job says it all in this. Until Divinity shows up with understanding, our human perspective is filled with grey. The outer mutterings pressure to conform our hearts and we are barely able to resist them, like a lily among thorns. We receive the many suggestions against God and man that have littered the thoughts of the human race. And somehow, our Adversary slithers throughout the activity, continually free to roam. “The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it,’” Job 1:7. But then God shows up. And if we are truly integral of heart, we wait. We wait long enough for Him to show up with a mouthful of wisdom. Instead of conforming to the outer suggestions and accusations, we are transformed by the words He speaks. “…man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord,” Deuteronomy 8:3.
What lies beneath the scratched olive skin and torn garments and the dust and the ashes that have rendered the portrait grey? Is the human not a little too high or a little too low? Is he or she integral? Only the tested will know.